ST. PAUL — An expanded slate of Minnesotans will be able to schedule appointments for their COVID-19 vaccinations beginning this week, state officials announced Monday, Jan. 18.
The vaccine will be offered at nine sites throughout Minnesota through a pilot program overseen in partnership by the state government, local school districts and public health centers. Adults aged 65 and older, school teachers, school staff members as well as child care workers, can go to them by appointment to get their shots beginning Thursday this week.
Officials said Monday, though, that Minnesota still faces challenges in its vaccination efforts, chief among them a limited supply of the vaccine itself.
"We've said for months that vaccines would be the exit strategy and they're here now," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. "The problem, of course... is that we don't yet have anywhere near enough to bring the pandemic to a swift end."
States are scrambling to expand their vaccine eligibility criteria at the direction of the Trump administration to accelerate the pace of the U.S. vaccination campaign and end the coronavirus pandemic. In Minnesota, health officials began to broaden the range of eligible people when they told vaccine providers in the state that they could provide unused doses of vaccine to older Minnesotans.
Ramping up vaccinations, however, may be easier said than done, with only a limited supply of vaccine doses available. Around 60,000 doses are shipped to Minnesota each week and the state is unlikely to receive more than that any time soon. Only a portion of those will be held over for the new sites announced Monday.
And while Minnesota still appears to be on track to provide first-round doses of the vaccine to the 500,000 or so people in its initial priority group, which consists mostly of health care workers and long-term care facility residents, Monday's announcement will extend eligibility to an estimated 1 million more people. Two doses of the vaccine are required in order for it to be fully effective.
In other words, there will almost certainly be more Minnesotans eligible for vaccination now than there will be available doses of the vaccine. Health officials were blunt about that on a press call Monday, and asked for the public to be patient as they called on the federal government to purchase or release additional doses.
"We need not only more doses, we need clear and factual guidance around those doses , when they're coming and how they're coming," Gov. Tim Walz told reporters on a press call Monday.
The nine new vaccination sites, which officials said Monday will serve as a model for future ones, will be located in Anoka, Brooklyn Center, Fergus Falls, Marshall, Mountain Iron, North Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls. Appointments have to be made ahead of time as the sites will not accept walk-ins. Appointments can be made online beginning Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 19.
Only Minnesotans aged 65 or older and educators or child care workers who have been instructed by their employers can make appointments. Seniors who would rather receive their shots at the doctor's office will be notified by their health care providers as to when they can do so.
Schools and child care centers should notify their employees about appointment options as doses of the vaccine become available to them.
As of Monday, the state health department also said that 38,025 people in the state have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, meaning they have received both the initial shot of the vaccine as well as a second booster round. Separately, a total of 194,462 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Minnesota health officials also Monday reported an additional 980 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections recorded in the state since the pandemic began to nearly 450,000.
The number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in the state each day do appear to be trending downward, however. Still, an additional 12 deaths were reported Monday, all but three of which occurred in the Twin Cities area.
Seven of the deaths reported Monday occurred in long-term care settings.
As a result, Minnesota's pandemic death toll increased Monday to 5,939, less than one month after logging its 5,000th COVID-19 death.
A previous version of this article stated school children were eligible for the vaccine, which is not currently the case.
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.